Reuters

One man was jailed for topping his car off at the local middle school.

In a bind, you probably wouldn't think twice about recharging your cell phone in the nearest public outlet, maybe in a hotel lobby or a bookstore or (via Mike Riggs) in the men's room of a bus terminal. Our increasingly electronic lives sometimes demand electricity on the go.

No big deal, right? You just need a few minutes. But what if the battery that's running low happens to be in your electric car?

The Verge reports this morning that a guy in Georgia was recently arrested for cribbing what amounted to 5 cents worth of electricity for his Nissan Leaf from the external outlet at his son's middle school. An officer approached and warned the driver, Kaveh Kamooneh, that he was stealing. After the officer sought an arrest warrant, Kamooneh was arrested nearly two weeks later. He spent 15 hours in jail for the crime.

Via The Verge's Tom Warren:

In an interview with Atlanta's Channel 11 News, Kamooneh likens his charging to plugging in a cellphone at a coffee shop. "People charge laptops or cell phones at public outlets all the time, and no one's ever been arrested for that," says Kamooneh. Chamblee Police Sergeant Ernesto Ford is sticking by the arrest, noting that “a theft is a theft,” but Kamooneh plans to fight the charges.

It's obviously impossible to charge a car with the unobtrusive ease of a cell phone. And EVs will demand a lot more power (and outlet time) than any handheld device. But scenarios like this could create awkward precedent for how we plug in other devices in public places. And it highlights the peril of owning an electric car before the technology – and the charging infrastructure to accompany it – has become widespread.

Until that time, it's easy to envision early adopters doing what Kamooneh did, plugging in at post offices and public parks and restaurants. The question then becomes: Is this illegal, or just gauche, or neither? Clearly, it's a no-no to siphon someone else's gas. But a little energy?

Top image of Nissan Leaf: David Manning/Reuters

About the Author

Emily Badger

Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

Most Popular

  1. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  2. Homeless individuals inside a shelter in Vienna in 2010
    Equity

    How Vienna Solved Homelessness

    What lessons could Seattle draw from their success?

  3. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari
    Equity

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  4. Mack Donohue, who has been homeless since 2008, carries his belongings into a shelter in Boston, Massachusetts February 27, 2015.
    Equity

    Rethinking Homeless Shelters From the Ground Up

    One nonprofit wants to reward results, and change the funding model in the process.

  5. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.